Through thick and thin, whether she’s running a in a cross country meet, or playing basketball or softball, one thing you will notice about Maria West is she almost always is smiling.
The junior point guard was wearing her trademark smile Feb. 1 at Willmar as she scored a career-high 30 points and helped the Brainerd Warriors girls basketball team snap an 11-game losing streak with a 77-73 overtime win against the Cardinals. West finished 11 for 13 at the foul line, and added four steals, two assists, and eight rebounds. She scored seven of Brainerd’s 15 overtime points, including 4 for 4 at the line.
“We hadn’t won for a long time, so we went into the game knowing that we really wanted to win and we needed to win,” West said. “I came out and did pretty well the first couple halves, and we went into overtime. By that time I guess we figured we had a chance to win. We were just happy to finally win a game again.”
Warriors coach Brian McAllister was proud of the fact West played every minute.
“And, she played hard,” he said. “She was dead tired, and she led the team in everything. She was making shots, playing good defense. She made some big shots when we needed them.”
You could excuse West and her teammates for being grumpy all season. Brainerd has endured injuries to key players, and won just two of its first seven games before the long losing streak.
“Losing is never fun,” West said, “but we have a group of girls that are really close. We’ve been having a lot of fun throughout the season. We get along with the coaches. It’s not been too bad.”
The 2-year starter has started all 20 games this season and leads the team in scoring (9.75), rebounding (4.0), assists (2.25) and steals (1.75).
“Maria’s been working hard,” McAllister said. “She’s become a good player, and she has a year to go. She will get even better next year.”
West’s game hasn’t missed a beat even though she’s changed positions in recent weeks. McAllister shifted her to the point from shooting guard as Jenna Degen recovers from a concussion. Fortunately, West played a lot of point guard before reaching the varsity.
“You try to get everyone started, and you have to score on top of that,” West said of a point guard’s role. “When you’re the shooting guard, you have more chances to score. When you’re the point guard, you have to balance that out more.”
Along with the responsibility of playing the point, West is also one of the team’s captains as a junior. She is the team’s only junior.
“I’m really close with the sophomores,” she said. “Everyone’s very friendly and outgoing, but I can relate more with (the sophomores), I guess. I try to keep everyone together and have a positive attitude, keep practice exciting even when we’re losing.”
So, what about that trademark smile?
“I’m usually pretty positive,” West said. “I just don’t want anybody to get down. I’m always smiling on the court, and people are always picking on me about it. The coaches will ask me why I’m smiling, like even when I get fouled, and I don’t really know.”
McAllister added that, “I’ll tell her that ‘You can get a little crabby on the floor,’ but she’s always smiling. Even if she’s frustrated, she doesn’t show it.
“You can’t ask for a nicer kid. She’s a good student, she’s coachable, she plays hard, she works hard. She’s worked pretty hard to be a good basketball player.”
Other notable efforts:
■ Marcus Comstock, boys basketball, scored 32 points against Moorhead, 20 against Elk River and 23 against Tech.
■ Jack Sauer, boys basketball, scored 21 against Moorhead, 18 against Elk River and 20 against Tech.
■ Devin Annable, floor hockey, scored six goals against Mounds View.
■ Cole Smith, scored four goals and had an assist against Buffalo.
■ Zean Baker, Noah Baker and Gerrit Garberich, boys Nordic skiing, qualified for state.
■ Allison Kosobud and Sarah Fairbanks, girls Nordic skiing, qualified for state.
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.